The death anniversaries of two great singers, Arun Kumar and C.H.Atma fell on Dec 6 and Dec 3 respectively. C.H.Atma was ignored. But Arun Kumar was remembered, though by Radio Ceylon only.. who have left their sound-prints on the tracks of time. Arun Kumar was the senior of the two.
He was the singing artiste of Bombay Talkies films and he sang for Ashok Kumar(the Kismat song, `dheere dheere aare badal on 78 RPM disc though on the film’s sound track the voice is of Ashok himself), Kishore Sahu,(Punar Milan) Ulhas(Basant), Mumtaz Ali ( Jhoola and Basant), Raj Kapoor (Hamari Baat ), Dilip Kumar (Jwar Bhata) and others.
Arun Kumar was related to Ashok Kumar and S.Mukherjee. His major hit songs were heard in Bandhan (1940). The song, `Ruk na sako to jao tum jao’ is fresh in our minds till today. In this very film he rendered a box-office hit number, `Chane jor garam babu mai laya mazedar chane jor garam’. The first was a solo, the second was a chorus. Today you don’t see pedlars going round selling `chanajor garam’ as was done then. Now we buy them packed in plastic packets.
In `Punar Milan’ for Kishore Sahu he rendered that beautiful number (rendered separately by Sneh Prabha Pradhan too, the heroine of that film): `Nacho, nacho pyare man ke mor, aj more jeevan mein chhaya asaarh’.(Radio Ceylon played this on 6.12.2013) There was a duet that was sung by Arun Kumar and Snehprabha, `Avo banaen gharva pyaara, pyara pyara jag se nyara’. In `Basant’ there was a bonanza of hit numbers by Arun Kumar. He sang a duet with Amir Bai Karnataki, `Balam dheere bol koi sun lega’, which was picturised on Mumtaz Ali and Pramila. He rendered two dance numbers with Parul Ghosh, rendered on the screen by Mumtaz Ali and Mumtaz Shanti. One was the title song, `Aya basant sakhi birha ka ant sakhi ban ban mein chhayi bahar’ and the other was, `O Gori mose Ganga ke paar milna’ Two duets by him with Parul Ghosh were picturised on hero Ulhas and Mumtaz Shanti. One was, `Kanta lago re sajanwa mosey rah chali naa jae’ and the other was, `Ik duniya basa le mere man duniya basale’. Perhaps Arun Kumar’s peak was reached in `Kismat’. This film was a big hit, one of the two films that ran for the longest period in the last century. He lends his voice in the chorus, `Dur hato ai duniya walo Hindustan hamara hai’ and sings two songs for an elderly character known as Panditji’. One was, Zindagi bande jiye jaa’ and the other was a duet with Amir Bai: `Hum aisi kismet ko kya karen ke jo ik din hasaae ik din rulaye’ About `dheere dheere aare badal’ there is an interesting sidelight. In the film the song was sung by Ashok Kumar. But for re-recording the song for the HMV disc, Ashok Kumar was not available. So it was recorded in Arun Kumar’s voice. If you listen to the two versions one after the other you will know the difference. In `Hamari Baat’ Arun Kumar sang some duets with Parul Ghosh (picturised on Devika Rani and Jairaj) like, `Sookhi bagiya hari hui ghanshyam badariya chhai re’, `Insaan kya jo thokaren naseeb kin a she sake’ and `Jeevan jamuna paar milen ge’. But a super hit song by him was rendered with Suraiya who appears on the stage as an extra with Raj Kapoor to sing the song, `Bistar bichcha liya hai tere dar ke saamne, ghar hum ne le liya hai tere ghar ke saamne’. In `Jwar Bhata’ Arun Kumar sang for Dilip Kumar in his maiden film the song, `Sanjh ki bela panchchi akela’ ( I presume it was picturised on Dilip Kumar because I did not see this movie). His song, ‘Vo un ka …sharma ke chale jaana, hai baat to zara si par ban gaya afsana’ from ‘Sangram’ was also rendered for Ashok Kumar. The last hit song was by him in film `Mashal’ – `Jab hum the tumhare aur tum thhe hamare voh thorre se din thhe kitne pyaare’. Arun Kumar scored the music of ‘Parineeta’ and Manna Dey”s ‘Chali Radhey Rani…apne mohan se mukhra morr kle’ was sheer delight to say nothing of the wedding chorus led by Asha in this film: ‘Gore gore hathon mein mehendi laga ke;;chalo dulhaniya piya se milne chota sa ghunghat nikal ke’. They had charm, they had melody, they were beautiful songs entrenched in my boyhood memory. I salute this maestro who could make a mark for himself in the face of competition from the formidable New Theatre trio of Saigal, Pankaj Mullick and K.C.Dey.
C.H.Atma’s real name was Atma Chanani. Before partition he was popular among Karachi’s social circles for his singing. C.H.Atma hit the headlines in film `Nagina’ made by D.M.Pancholi. The music was by Shankar-Jaikishen , their second film after the super hit film `Barsaat’. I was sitting in `Azad Co.’ when one of their young proprietors, the late Gopal Krishna Taneja told me that SJ’s new film’s songs have arrived. I saw the records on Columbia. I picked up one. It was on Columbia (blue) label. On the one side of this 78 RPM record was Lata’s `Kaisi khushi ki hai raat, balam mere saath’. Without listening to the other side I purchased it. Gopalji told me: `Listen to the other side. You will be surprised’. On their huge record playing machine he played the other side: `Roun mai sagar ke kinare….’ It began. I exclaimed: `He sounds like Saigal’. He said: `That is why I asked you to listen to it’. I came home with the record and played it. All those who were at home then agreed that there was marked resemblance with Saigal’s voice. Soon thereafter `Nagina was released. I recall the advertisements in local newspapers: `Saigal re-born’. The song is indeed great: `Roun main sagar ke kinare sagar hasi urrae, kya jaane yeh chanchal leheren main hun aag chhipae’. The actor who rendered the song on the screen was late Nasir Khan, younger brother of Dilip Kumar. There were two other songs by C.H.Atma in this film: one was `Ek sitara hai akash mein’ and the other was `Dil beqarar hai mera’. The first one has an unusual tune not easy to copy. But the latter song was rendered in the popular style. Pancholi presented him as a hero in film `Bhai Sahib’; and one of the songs that became hit was, `Nazar nazar ne keh diya hai yeh fasana mere pyar ka’. C.H.Atma appeared as Surdas with Suraiya as Chintamani to repeat the Saigal Khurshid performance of `Bhakta Surdas’. But the film, titled, `Bilwa Mangal’ could not sway the masses as the Saigal film had done though there were quite a few tuneful songs by Suraiya and C.H.Atma, including the latter’s, `Panghat pe more Shyam bajaae basuriya’. In `Geet Gaya Patharon mein’ he sang that haunting jnumber, `Mandve taley garib ke’, though one of his best songs after `Nagina’ was, Diya to jala sab raat re balam par tum laut na aye’. But some how I regard it as a copy and not original because this number had been rendered as a private song with great feeling by actor –singer Man Mohan Krishna.
C.H.Atma earlier released his first non-film disc on `Regal’ under which HMV sold the records at cheaper rates. O.P.Nayyar tuned the song and Saroj Mohini Nayyar composed the lyrics. Preetam aan milo, dukhiya jiya pukare’.When the song became a hit it was transferred to the costlier label. O.P.Nayyar composed two pathos-laden songs of his wife for Atma. One was, `More balam base pardes sakhi saari raat na nidiya na aye’ and on the other side was,`Aye sakhi na balama beeti bahaar’. On the Columbia disc it is mentioned: `Music O.P.Nayyar, supervision Pankaj Mullick’. The reason was that this song had some special words which were sung with musical emphasis by Saigal, like `balam’ . In 1957 I met in Calcutta a gentleman Subidar Paul who said he was a nephew of Pankaj Mullick. He said C.H.Atma did call on Pankaj Mullick . Once he came drunk. Pankaj Mullick then asked him to go away and remarked: `There is only one person whom I permitted to come here after taking drinks; and that was K.L.Saigal’
C.H.Atma sang some other songs including, `Aya tha kis kaam ko soya chadar taan re’. There was a lilting ghazal too: `Jab sari duniya soti hai main geet tumhare gata hun’ And to bring the Saigal effect he sang one song(non-film )starting off with Diya jalao (remanding one of Tansen)but changing over then like this `Main ghee ka diya jalaaun ghar avo’. Raj Kapoor wanted C.H.Atma to sing for him in film ‘Awata’. But Pancholi, with whom Atma had signed contract for exclusive singing, did not permit him to do so –or else we might have got a rare treat again.